Next Step Energy: Consider Solar Power for Your Farm or Rural Home

Because of climate change and other fossil fuel issues, many farmers are looking to solar energy to power their farms. The Union of Concerned Scientists notes in their article “Up with the Sun: Solar Energy and Agriculture”1 that “solar energy can be used in agriculture in a number of ways, saving money, increasing self-reliance, and reducing pollution.” Francis Thicke, who operates an alternative-energy-powered organic farm in Iowa, lists some of the ways solar might be used on a farm:2

  • Powering pumps to provide water for animals in grazing paddocks
  • Solar for the farmhouse
  • Heating hot water in the milk house
  • Heat for greenhouses
  • Solar-powered electric fence chargers

Next Step Energy, serving a 60-mile radius around Eau Claire, Wisconsin, since 1982, has done many solar installations for farms. Joe Maurer, project development for Next Step, says, “We’ve installed for all kinds of farmers, but our typical clients are small farmers looking to hedge against rising energy costs while taking advantage of tax credits, depreciation, and USDA REAP grants. Next Step Energy has the capability to do very large systems, but our typical install is around 8kW to 12kW.” Maurer explains that Next Step’s solar installations are not per individual applications but rather for total load management. “Ninety-five percent of systems are grid-tied electric systems, so functions on the farm are not broken down. What I mean is solar powers the total load, not separate individual applications. Most of the systems we install are grid tied. This has the advantage of allowing the farmer to sell excess power back and have the farmer’s account credited by the utility company. This is why grid-tied solar energy is generally more popular and practical than battery systems.”

Next Step’s website explains what they do: “We are a full service installer of renewable energy, high efficiency radiant heating systems. We specialize in consultation, creative design, and installation of solar electric, solar thermal, and unique heating systems.” The company does site assessments, system design and installation, consultation services, as well as providing service and repairs to systems installed.

What are some advantages to using solar on the farm? Maurer says, “Burning less fuel, having a stable energy bill, and promoting a positive environmental image. Plus it’s fun to manage your power. Solar has that effect on people. Once they realize they are making money by producing energy, they start shutting off lights and figuring out ways to reduce the electrical load. They can monitor their own solar production on their smart phone or computer. It’s fun!”

Installing solar is a long-term investment. “But,” Maurer notes, “the price of solar has never been lower. That’s a fact, not a sales pitch. Prices of solar have dropped 75 percent in the last five years. Prices are at an all-time low largely due to worldwide popularity and acceptance of solar as a viable way to produce clean power.”

What does Maurer like about working at Next Step? “I work in project development and also work as an independent film maker. The two jobs fit together nicely. I enjoy meeting new people and hearing their stories.”

To talk with Joe Maurer about solar for your farm, contact him at or call 715-830-9337. Visit their website at

1. Union of Concerned Scientists:
2. Thicke, Francis:

Forms of Stress: How Does Your Body Handle Them?

By Dr. Emily Rowan Alsheskie, chiropractor, MY Life Health Center

What if I told you that stress wasn’t real? Sounds untrue, but when thinking about mental or emotional stress, it is really how you perceive it. A farmer needs rain at certain times and sunshine at certain times. Sometimes when the farmer needs sunshine, it rains and when the farmer needs rain, the sun shines. Is rain a stressful event? Absolutely not! It’s all about how you perceive it. This idea of perception is the first essential of health that is taught in our practice, and it is one of three forms of stressors that occur to our bodies–emotional/mental stress.

Some mental stressors are out of our control, but there are ways to reduce our exposure to negativity by doing things like practicing forgiveness, using positive self-talk, and limiting our interactions with negative individuals.

The second major stressor may not be as obvious as the others, but it has a HUGE impact on the body’s ability to function properly. This is chemical stress. The most common form of chemical stress comes from our daily nutrition. This includes inflammatory products and foods like sugar, artificial sweeteners, food additives, preservatives and pesticides, as well as hydrogenated fats. The easiest way to avoid these harmful substances is to consume whole, fresh, organic foods and cut out processed and packaged foods. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store and not the aisles!

The last and typically most noticed form of stress is physical stress. Motor vehicle accidents, slips, falls, and sporting injuries are common forms of macrotrauma. Microtraumas that accumulate over time and contribute to physical stress include things like sitting at a desk for extended periods of time and bending the head forward to use gadgets like cell phones. These repetitive actions, that we were not designed to experience on a daily basis, cause structural changes to the spine and supporting musculature. These changes in our foundation impact our most important system, the nervous system. The nervous system is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves that control all cells, tissues, and organs. When stress is constantly endured by the body–in all three forms: chemical, mental/emotional, and physical–the nervous system takes the hit and cannot control the body’s processes as it was intended to. This is why stress not only harms us in the short term but can lead to chronic diseases like cancer, cardiovascular complications, and other debilitating diseases.

Chiropractic care may be most known for symptom relief related to the spine, but chiropractors are really nervous system doctors. The nervous system is addressed via the spine since the vertebral column is what surrounds and protects this very important system. When the structure of the spine is in its most stable form, stress and tension are relieved from the spinal cord and the nerves that control the system’s processes. This is why patients who practice proper spinal hygiene with chiropractic adjustments and spinal therapies experience less sick days, improved quality of sleep, reduced number of over the counter/prescription medications, and less symptoms overall.

Stress is a normal part of life. I can’t take away your stressors like picking up your kids, making dinner, or walking your dog. But the big question here is, how well can your body handle stress? As doctors of chiropractic, we first and foremost check for any nervous system stressors and disruptors that can be causing an imbalance and inability to heal. From there we make corrections (the adjustment) by using our hands, drop table, and adjusting tool to put the body in a healing and less stressed state.

Physical, mental/emotional, and chemical stressors are a part of our day to day lives, but stress itself is not the problem. It’s how much stress we experience and how our bodies handle it. Taking care of yourself with adequate nutrition, exercise, mindset practices, and proper spinal alignment give you the best opportunity to prevent common lifestyle-induced illnesses and chronic pain. Whether you have aches and pains or not, get a nervous system evaluation to take a proactive and preventative approach to your health. Then incorporate the other tips included here to aid your body in healing!

Dr. Emily Rowan Alsheskie holds a doctorate in chiropractic with a special emphasis on prenatal and neonatal care. She is a recent graduate from Life University, a chiropractic college in Marietta, Georgia. Dr. Emily joined in practice with her mentor, Dr. Kevin Schultz, at MY Life Health Center in Lake Hallie this past fall. She is a mother to her two-year-old son, Rory, and is excited to raise him in the Chippewa Valley!

Choose HEALTH This New Year

By Dr. Emily Smith, Smith & Prissel Chiropractic

With every new year, we as adults find ourselves knee-deep in resolutions to make this year different than the last. As with everything else, our kids are watching! Without knowing we often “gift” our kids with their lifestyle habits, both good and bad. Breaking a bad habit is much harder than making a good habit. This year resolve to instill healthy changes that will benefit the entire family (and if everyone is involved, success is more likely to last past January!)

● Treats are just that, a treat! Eating a sweet treat every day creates a habit of needing sugar to feel satisfied. Avoid buying highly processed cookies/cakes at the store/gas station and instead choose to make healthier versions of sweets at home. (Add the word “healthy” into your Pinterest search bar to eliminate temptations.) If you have always been a family that ends a meal with dessert, try to follow the meal with fruit instead!

● Water should be the drink of choice! It’s not sweet or carbonated, but water is what our body needs and craves in order to function optimally. You should be drinking half of your body weight in ounces every day (for example if you weigh 100, pounds you should drink 50 ounces of water every day). Think of it like this, if you aren’t drinking enough water you are essentially creating “jerky” out of your muscles. If you’ve ever tried to bend/twist/stretch jerky, you know that you don’t want to be on the receiving end of that yourself. Dehydrated muscles will also be more prone to injury and result in more pain. Nobody wants that! If cold/flu symptoms have caused dehydration, turn to coconut water for rehydration (it’s nature’s Gatorade!)

● We’ve all heard the phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but did you know that a simple apple contains 10,000 ingredients?! None of these are in huge amounts but rather in small amounts that work synergistically together to provide us with the prevention we give it credit for. But don’t stop there! All fruits and vegetables have their own massive amount of nutrients just waiting to do amazing things within your body! Strive to “eat the rainbow” with a wide variety of colors of fruits and vegetables every day. For those of you who struggle to accomplish that (due to cost/time/effort/desire), Juice Plus+ can be a great way to bridge the gap between what you are eating and what your body needs!

● Get active together! Whether this involves a family gym membership or hiking through the woods on snowshoes, the important part is that you are moving! To motivate kids check out This Strong Kids Challenge sticker sheets offer lots of ideas to help kids incorporate all of these healthy choices and keep track of their progress. There are also great ideas for healthy snacks, lunchbox planning, and a downloadable cookbook full of tasty recipes that the entire family will love.

Dr. Emily Smith is a pediatric chiropractic specialist but treats patients of all ages at her Menomonie and Eau Claire (Smith & Prissel Chiropractic) offices. She focuses on whole body wellness as it relates to health, including how important good nutrition is. She can be reached at or (715) 833-3505.

Timing, Speed, and Balance

By Judy Soborowicz, Active Health Chiropractic

Timing is everything, especially in sports. The brain controls all movement and coordination of body timing, such as responding to the sudden change in walking and properly maintaining balance when stepping in a hole, and for explosive movements required for competitive sports. The brain is responsible for coordination, communicating with specialized nerve cells found in every joint and ligament of the body, which allows for the coordinated response of muscles. These specialized nerve cells are activated when the slightest movement occurs within the joint, making the brain able to instantaneously respond with muscle contraction and repositioning of joint position for stabilization in motion.

Functional MRI has shown that the brains of participants post-ACL repair during bending and extending the knee respond differently, as compared to controls. Studies suggest that due to loss of the specialized sensory receptors within the knee, the brain shifts function to rely more on the visual centers of the brain. Even with exercise and movement, the brain displays changes in response. Aside from the input of the inner ear, communication between joint sensory receptors is the primarily way we balance and respond in movement. Relying on visual motor response may be why performance can be so negatively affected.

Take for example, an ankle sprain, or when any joint and surrounding supportive tissue is injured. The motion of that joint is altered because of problems within the joint. During the healing time, the communication between the specialized nerve cells and brain are altered. Post-injury, the body may be able to regain use, but small issues within the joint may persist, decreasing the fast timing and responsiveness accompanying previously healthy movement. This means you may be able to perform, but may notice changes in your speed of responsiveness, balance, or persistent re-injury that negatively affects you overall.

A simple balance test, done in your home, can be a great way to determine how efficient your brain is at gathering information from the specialized nerve cells stimulated by joint position and inner ear. With a partner, in a safe place, attempt to balance on one foot. If you are able to balance with your eyes open, attempt the same with eyes closed. If you are unable to balance without using your eyes, you may be relying on your visual motor response. This may translate to slower performance as an athlete, chronic injuries, or the loss of ability to walk confidently in the dark or on irregular ground.

Optimizing the output from the sensory receptors throughout joints depends on stimulation, which occurs with healthy movement. Chiropractic adjustments address problem movement issues within the joints. Specific adjustments to restore healthy movement translate to big changes in performance. Nerve cells have a “use it or lose it” requirement. Increasing information relayed between the joint receptors and brain begins a process regaining response and performance. Restoring function to joint movement and sensory communication to the brain reduces the likelihood of injuries/re- injuries, and restores brain function to original design. The healthier the movement in the joint, the more robust the signaling for better timing, response, and stabilization.

Judy Soborowicz, DC CCN obtained her chiropractic degree at Palmer College of Chiropractic. Dr Judy enjoys practicing chiropractic and nutrition at Active Health in Eau Claire, alongside her husband Dr John.

Giving Gala at The Lismore in February!

This February 16, 2018, the Giving Gala will take place at The Lismore Hotel.
The goal of the Giving Gala is to provide the community with the opportunity to support three great local nonprofits at one fun event: Girls on the Run, Junior League of Eau Claire, and the Eau Claire YMCA, all dedicated to improving the lives of children in the Chippewa Valley. Proceeds from the event are shared equally between the three organizations toward providing more kids in the Valley with the opportunity to grow in a healthy and positive way.

The Giving Gala is a formal party featuring live music, dancing, silent auction, cocktails, and heavy hors d’oeurves, during which guests are encouraged to give to these local groups while they enjoy the gala. Guests can get gussied up, grab their partner or some friends, and enjoy a fancy night out at the beautiful Lismore Hotel ballroom. There will be a cocktail hour with live jazz from local artists Tim Sullivan and Josh Gallagher, dancing with a live local big band, a specially curated silent auction, and hopefully a beer/wine and chocolate tasting! There won’t be a sit-down dinner, but there will be plenty of food and drink, so guests can plan to come hungry. There will also be dance lessons with UWEC dance group, Two to Tango, before and during the event, so guests can try out their new moves on the dance floor.

Event planners include Ellie Siedow, program director at Girls on the Run, Suzie Slota of the Eau Claire YMCA, and Courtney Kanz of Junior League of Eau Claire.

To learn more about the Giving Gala go to or call Ellie Siedow at 715-514-5075. Tickets will go on sale the first of the New Year. Check the Facebook page for where to buy! Ticket prices are $60/person, $100/pair, or a table of 8 for $420. This year, in an effort to include younger people in the event, there will be discounted tickets at $40 for Emerging Donors, ages 21–35. There will also be some early bird specials, so stay tuned.